A slow offseason for baseball’s free agents has left many players without contracts heading into the new year. While many middle relievers have found lucrative multi-year deals, many top-tier players have yet to cash in on their recent performance. Many players will eventually sign before spring training begins in late February, but it is still an uneasy time for players who do not know where they will live next season, or if they will have to move their families to a new city. This list of the Top Ten Free Agents Remaining heading into 2018 takes into account future and past performance.
1. J.D. Martinez, 31
Martinez began the 2017 season with the Detroit Tigers, a playoff hopeful, but when they fell out of contention near the trade deadline, they dealt Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks. While playing in only 119 games last year, he set a career highs in home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage. These career marks established him as a solid middle of the order bat who can drive in runs and get on base.
Martinez should get a deal in the five-to-seven-year range for around $20 million a season. While all teams could use a middle of the order bat like Martinez, not everyone can afford to pay the price. Some interested teams include the Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Cardinals. I believe he will wind up signing with the Red Sox, as they need to add some pop to their lineup to compete with the Yankees new Duo of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
2. Yu Darvish, 31
Darvish also was traded midseason in 2017, from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Over the course of the season he had 31 starts and threw 186 innings while continuing to show his dominant stuff throughout the regular season. His postseason struggles are well documented, as he struggled against Astros on the game’s biggest stage. Following the series there were reports that Darvish was tipping pitches. This should be very easy to fix, and should ease potential teams’ minds as his postseason struggles were not due to diminished stuff, but due to a small part of his delivery.
Darvish will command a deal worth more than $100 million over five-plus seasons due to his outstanding stuff and track record. Teams rumored to be interested in Darvish include the Cubs, Mariners, Rangers, Yankees, and Dodgers. In the end, I think he will end up signing with the Cubs, who need another top of the rotation pitcher after Jake Arrieta leaves in free agency.
3. Jake Arrieta, 32
2017 was not the year for Arrieta, who missed time due to a hamstring injury, and started off the year extremely slow. Las year also marked his lowest total innings pitched since 2014 with 168 innings pitched. His 3.53 ERA is also his highest since 2013. This causes questions to be asked about his future performance — will he return to his dominance of 2015 or will he continue to regress as he did this year?
Many teams tend to avoid pitchers of Arrieta’s age with downward trending performance, but he should still get a deal for three to five years at $20 million a season. Some teams that are interested in the former Cy Young Award winner are the Cubs, Mariners, Rangers, Yankees, and Dodgers. In the end I think he will sign with the Dodgers.
4. Eric Hosmer, 28
Last year was the year the Royals could have blown it up, traded their top homegrown talent for prospects, but they chose to hold onto all their players and see what would happen during the season. The season did not end well for the team, as they missed the playoffs for the second straight season following their World Series victory. Last season, Hosmer hit .318, a career high, along with 25 homers, tied for a career high. He also is only 28 years old, so these numbers could continue to go up as he enters his eighth season.
Hosmer’s experience, as well as production, should land him a lucrative contract on a contending team. This deal could be five to seven years in length for around $18-20 million a season. Teams that have rumored interest in Hosmer include the Red Sox, Royals, and Padres. I think the Padres will offer him a contract that is too good to refuse, and he will end up signing with them, officially starting the rebuild for the Royals.
5. Mike Moustakas, 29
Moustakas was another member of the core of the Royals team that won the 2015 World Series. Unfortunately, the team has not been known to spend tons of money in free agency, so it is very likely that the team will lose Moustakas along with Hosmer. Last year was by far his best season, as he had career highs in home runs, RBIs, slugging, and OPS.
Moustakas’s strong season, combined with his relatively young age for a free agent, should create a decent market for him. He should get a contract similar to former teammate Hosmer: five to seven years, and around $18-20 million per season. Some teams that are in need of a third baseman and have interest in the former Royal include the Cardinals, Yankees, Royals, Phillies, and Mets. In the end, I think he will sign with the Cardinals for five years and $100 million.
6. Greg Holland, 32
The 2017 offseason will be remembered as the offseason of the reliever, as many middle relievers are getting paid. Closers should then see an uptick in price as well, which works out well for Holland. After missing the 2016 campaign due to Tommy John surgery, he bounced back well for the Colorado Rockies. He had 41 saves and threw for 57 innings in 2017. His 3.61 ERA is not what you would expect from a dominant closer, which Holland once was, but if you consider the fact that he just had Tommy John and he threw most of his innings in Coors Field, teams can live with that number. In 2018, teams can expect his ERA to go down significantly. Every team needs a good bullpen to get to a World Series, so every team is interested, but the teams that can afford him that could use his services include: Cubs, Rockies, White Sox, and Twins. I think he will end up signing with the Twins for three years and $30 million.
7. Lorenzo Cain, 32
Cain has been known for his great defense and speed throughout his major league career, which is exactly what teams in need of a center fielder are looking for. His bat is not among the league’s best, but he is a consistently above-average offensive player while playing elite defense at a premium position.
Cain also has been on many successful teams throughout his career, including one World Series championship. Teams are always looking for players with postseason experience, and Cain has plenty of it. Teams that are interested in Cain include the Royals, Giants, and Phillies. I think he will get a deal similar to that of Dexter Fowler‘s five-year, $82.5 million deal that he signed last offseason. My prediction is that he signs with the Giants and wins another ring over the duration of his contract.
8. Lance Lynn, 31
Lynn had a great comeback season in 2017 after missing all of 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He threw 186 innings, the third-highest total of his career. He has thrown at least 175 innings in every one of his full big league seasons, showing that aside from his TJ surgery last year, he is durable. However, being that he is 31 and had surgery at age 30 may cause some teams to be hesitant before giving Lynn a multi-year deal.
In the end, I believe Lynn will be one of the last mid-rotation starters to be signed and will get a deal for two or three years at around $15 million a season. Some teams that could use Lynn’s services include the Cubs, Yankees, Cardinals, Orioles, and Rangers. I believe he will re-sign with the Cardinals for two seasons and $32 million.
9. Alex Cobb, 30
Cobb has been a very successful (and overlooked) pitcher for the Rays since his debut in 2011. Last season, he set a career high in innings pitched with 179. While he is not known as an innings eater, as he has only thrown three complete games in his career and never over 180 innings in a season, he was still very effective in the AL east. This should draw him interest from any team needing a number-three or -four starter who is effective at keeping the team in the game start after start.
Cobb’s contract should mirror that of Lynn’s except that Cobb could get a few extra seasons on his contract. Some teams that should have interest in Cobb include the Cubs, Phillies, Yankees, and Orioles. In the end I think he will sign with the Phillies for three years and $45 million.
10. Jonathan Lucroy, 32
Lucroy had arguably his worst season since his 2010 debut in 2017. His home runs (six) and RBIs (40) both were down from previous seasons. However, his experience and low strikeout rate should appeal to clubs looking for a catcher to help young pitchers grow, or platoon with another experienced catcher. In the end, I think teams will bank on a bounce back season from Lucroy, which will in turn provide a good deal for both the team and player.
Lucroy’s contract will probably be a one- or two-year deal, with an average value of around $10 million a season, as teams will want to see if Lucroy can have his numbers look similar to his career best 2014 season. Some teams in need of a catcher include the Rockies, Nationals, and Angels. I think he ends up re-signing with the Rockies for two years and $18 million.